History of the Napa Valley Mustard Festival
winter napa valley

history of the Napa Valley Mustard FestivalHistory

In 1993 the Yountville Chamber of Commerce assigned President-elect George Rothwell to research the feasibility of holding an event when wild mustard is in bloom to promote the off-season in Napa Valley. George founded Yountville's Festival of Lights and knew how a good promotion could enliven a community and bring prosperity to all who live and work there. This new concept - a winter celebration to wake up the region when grapevines are resting and the scenery is spectacular - was an enormous one, and he knew he would need help.

There were challenges: no funding and no one willing to take on the task without a significant sum. George met with Summers-McCann Public Relations, a company that pioneered the marketing of food and wine with the arts - creating a new wine country trend nearly a decade before. With united enthusiasm and seed money George provided from his own business, Antique Fair in Yountville, they persuaded forward thinking businesses including Auberge du Soleil, Napa Valley Mustard Company (since purchased by Beaverton Foods) and Inn at Napa Valley (now Embassy Suites) to come on board.

The concept grew to become a valley-wide promotion with multiple events and a Photography Contest. Jim O'Shea, who was the Hospitality Director of Mumm Napa, agreed to host the Photography Contest Exhibit, and it has been a smashing success. The first annual Napa Valley Mustard Festival burst into bloom on February 4, 1994, and by 1996 a new visitor season was established. Monumental economic changes inspired by the new Mustard Season were well documented by visitor counts and revenues.

Photographs of mustard in bloom appear in publications throughout the world. New hotels have been built and the hospitality industry that was traditionally forced to reduce staffing during winter is now able to keep valuable employees working the year around. Observant communities, other states, and at least two other countries have taken notice and used the Napa Valley Mustard Festival as a blueprint to improve their own tourism industries.

Affectionately known as the "Godfather" of the Napa Valley Mustard Festival, George received a State of California Resolution and a Congressional Award in 2001 in recognition of outstanding and invaluable service to the community. He and fellow board members invite you to enjoy the 17th Annual Sensational Season of Events January 30 through March 27, 2010.

View the 2007 Wrap-up Report (132 Kb PDF)


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